Books for sale at Open Books’s pop up location, 2130 W. Chicago Ave., in West Town on Nov. 4, 2021. The organization is relaunching its pay-what-you-can pop-up in North Lawndale. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

NORTH LAWNDALE — After getting a $100,000 grant, Open Books is moving its headquarters from the West Loop to North Lawndale, a move years in the making.

The organization previously held temporary pop-up shops in North Lawndale as part of its North Lawndale Reads program and the Lawndale Pop-Up Spot. Now, Open Books will put down permanent roots in the neighborhood while expanding its local services.

Open Books received funding earlier this month to expand its North Lawndale Reads programs on the West Side, including offering more educational opportunities for children and opening a pay-what-you-want bookstore and community space.

Chelsea Ridley, co-founder of Open Books, said the two locations being considered for its new headquarters are on 16th Street and Roosevelt Road. The new location will include a permanent bookstore, she said. Open Books currently operates bookstores in Logan Square, Pilsen and at its West Loop headquarters; all three bookstores will remain open.

Ridley said the move to North Lawndale, which should happen sometime this year, has been planned since she began working at Open Books three years ago.

“One of the first things I wanted to do when we started was establish ourselves in North Lawndale. This is going to make a huge difference in the community,” Ridley said.

The organization aims to foster literacy through reading and writing workshops for Chicago children and low-income families.

Impact Grants Chicago awarded the $100,000 grant to Open Books. The all-volunteer women’s collective gives the grants annually to nonprofits from the pooled resources of its members.

Ridley said the move to North Lawndale will expand book access on the West Side in predominantly Black and Brown areas such as Austin, Little Village, Englewood, Gage Park and Back of the Yards.

The staff of around 30 is expected to grow after the move to include marketing and more teachers for its reading programs and bilingual services, according to Ridley.

Open Books has been operating in North Lawndale as part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library since 2019. Ridley said encouraging children in the neighborhood to read is important to growth and social mobility, as the ratio of children to books in lower-income communities is 300 to 1.

Open Books’ comic book reading program serves as a great entry point for young readers even if a comic book isn’t as grammatically dense as a novel, Ridley said. After third grade, some children begin to lose interest in reading, Ridley previously has said.

“We want to make sure that kids and adults have what they need to become lifelong readers,” she said.

Other recent Impact Grants Chicago recipients include the Lawndale Christian Legal Center, Revolution Workshop, Friends of the Children, LYTE Collective, Meals on Wheels Chicago, Poder English Works and Working Credit.

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